But Gurung, a fashion darling who has dressed Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton and Oprah Winfrey, went distinctly non-political this go-around, choosing to honor the city's impossible dreamers and creative energy instead in a colorful, sensuous collection that included a strapless ice blue taffeta gown made of recycled plastic bottles. Last September, he draped models in beauty pageant style sashes that read: “Who Gets to be American?”
In the Rainbow Room, the Nepal native put out looks of black, white and jewel tones, along with lively surrealist floral prints by the painter Isabelle Menin as Washington Square Park pianist Colin Huggins played while models from around the globe in a range of sizes and ages walked a circular runway.
He showed evening gowns along with jacket and trouser sets, and elegant coats and jackets. There was one coat in mint and a jacket in white with fluttery ostrich feathers. Expressing the dichotomy of New York's boroughs and neighborhoods, from high society to bohemian, Gurung included a Fair Isle turtleneck, a tartan draped dress in ivory and black, and a leopard print coat with matching boots, all after Huggins opened the show with a rousing rendition of the Frank Sinatra standard “New York, New York.”
“There's no place like New York," Gurung told The Associated Press backstage. “I left Nepal 20 years ago to come here because I wanted to live my American dream. I wanted to come to the Rainbow Room because it's such an iconic place. ... I wanted to remind all of us why we do what we do when the relevance of New New York Fashion Week and the city itself is being questioned. Let's not forgot what it stands for. It's a true melting pot of diversity.”
Gurung lives near Washington Square Park and since his days at the Parsons School of Design has taken solace there, sketching and often listening to Huggins play the piano. He was thrilled when the classical pianist agreed to compose music for his show, matching the emotion of the collection at Gurung's direction.
“I used to miss home, and classical music always calms me down,” Gurung said. “There are so many memories attached to Colin and his music in Washington Square Park.” As for the taffeta gown made of recycled bottles, he said he wanted to do his part in an industry counted among the world's greatest polluters.
“If you can just do the smallest bit we can collectively become such a force,” he said. Gurung also worked in a different shade of blue from the bottle dress with a crystal-encrusted neckline. It was a sky blue color he used in a voluminous skirt worn with a feather-adorned oxblood turtleneck, and for a riot of taffeta at the shoulders of a low cut top worn with black trousers and long black gloves.